The Rise of Latin Trap in America

After Justin Bieber’s remix of Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito” dominated the charts, anyone would have assumed that Americans would be hungry for more Latin infused pop and rap. But if you were to gaze at the Billboard Top 100, it would appear that fascination starts and ends with “Despacito” and J Balvin’s “Mi Gente” (which was somehow unable to reserve the number one spot even with a BeyoncĂ© remix). Streaming services seemed to prove the music industry’s suspicions: artists like Ozuna and Bad Bunny, previously unknown to Western audiences, were raking in millions of plays, regardless of mainstream radio’s refusal to give them airplay.

Since then, many rap and r&b artists (which is currently the highest selling genre in America) have sought after Latin artists for remixes and features, such as Cardi B’s number one hit “Bodak Yellow” being remixed by Dominican rapper Messiah. Latin rappers are also taking note of the trend, collaborating with popular American rap artists, such as Bad Bunny’s smash track “Krippy Kush,” which was remixed by Nicki Minaj and 21 Savage.

Aside from the indication of American audiences acquiring a taste for Latin flavor, this trend is another sign of industry gatekeepers having another piece of their power taken away from them. When the radio fails to deliver what audiences wish to here, streaming services will provide, with radio play no longer necessary to secure success. If the mainstream fails to adapt to mainstream trends and streaming numbers, it will die. Last month, iHeartMedia filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, and as a company that owns more 850 radio stations across the country, the fate of mainstream radio is up in the air.

Matthew Isenberg

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